Category: Education

Our education programs include technical assistance to property owners, heritage education around the Civil War Sequicentennial and the Bi-Centennial of the War of 1812, and our ongoing Race and Place in Baltimore Neighborhoods project.

Expanding the scope and content of Battle of Baltimore commemorations

An early 20th century celebration of the "boy heroes" of North Point, Daniel Wells and Henry McComas
An early 20th century celebration of the “boy heroes” of North Point, Daniel Wells and Henry McComas

For any historical event, landmark anniversaries provide an opportunity for reflection. The very first anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore could be described as both solemn and triumphant, as survivors honored those lost during the fighting and cheered the steadfast defense of their city. Newspaper accounts of the first Defenders’ Day in 1815 recall the occasion as pious and full of “pomp.” As the Battle of Baltimore faded from living memory over the course of the 19th century—and as the North and South attempted to reconcile after the Civil War—commemorations became more celebratory in nature. The civic leaders who planned the 1914 centennial, on the eve of World War I, infused the program with patriotism. They emphasized Baltimore as a place of national significance because of its association with the Star-Spangled Banner, although it wouldn’t become the national anthem until 1931.

The navy stunt planes, the Blue Angels, pictured from the Smith and Armistead monuments on Federal Hill during the Star-Spangled Spectacular in September 2014
The navy stunt planes, the Blue Angels, pictured from the Smith and Armistead monuments on Federal Hill during the Star-Spangled Spectacular in September 2014

For those of us who recently experienced the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore, the laudatory spirit might still be felt. The Star-Spangled Spectacular in September 2014 included a massive fireworks display, a festival of tall ships from across the world, an aerial performance by the Blue Angels, and visits to Fort McHenry by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. While some locals and visitors challenged themselves to learn more about the War of 1812 through exhibits and programs at many local museums, critical thinking was by no means required during the bicentennial commemorations.

Perhaps large-scale public festivals—whether in 1914 or 2014—do not offer the ideal opportunity to dive deeply into the history of the Battle of Baltimore. However, this does not mean the events of September 12, 1814, have gone forgotten. While the printed centennial program (which you can access here) included a detailed account of the battle, we in the 21st century have many more opportunities to discover stories of the War of 1812. The Star-Spangled Banner bicentennial generated a great deal of online content—videos, websites, interactive maps, blogs, and digitized archival materials—free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Diversity is a theme of the National Park Service's bicentennial commemoration
Diversity is a theme of the National Park Service’s bicentennial commemoration

While several of these digital projects have continued to examine military history and the actions of Francis Scott Key (the main areas of focus during the centennial), the scholarship has also widened its lens to include more cultural history. Representing a range of diverse historical actors and their contributions to the city’s defense has been a priority in some of these projects. The Battle of Baltimore website and app embodies this bicentennial moment by examining places of worship, commercial centers, and sites of commemoration as well as defensive positions and troop movements. Stories relating to the generals and militiamen who participated in the Battle of Baltimore can certainly be found, but the project seeks to sketch a more complete picture of Baltimore in the early 19th century by also discussing everyday activities such as shopping, learning, praying, and working.

Selected Battle of Baltimore digital projects emerging from the bicentennial:

  • Prize of the Chesapeake: The Story of Fells Point: The nonprofit Preservation Society produced this website with support from two state agencies: the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. The project includes a ten minute film for young audiences, a very detailed walking tour, a series of essays, and a selected archive all focused on Fells Point in the War of 1812. The content emphasizes Fells Point as a center for shipbuilding and caulking, and addresses its racial and ethnic diversity.

    The state's suite of interactive battle maps utilize new tools to tell familiar stories
    The state’s suite of interactive battle maps utilize new tools to tell familiar stories
  • The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake: Interactive Battle Maps: this project of the state bicentennial commission identifies four stories related to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake: St. Leonard Creek, Bladensburg, North Point and Baltimore. Brief videos introduce users to each place with footage of living history reenactments, “talking heads” from experts at the National Park Service, period maps and drawings, and computer-generated graphics. High-tech animated battle maps then provide a personalized approach for exploring each story in depth. While the focus is on military history, the content addresses the contributions of everyday citizens from all backgrounds.
  • Maryland in the War of 1812 blog: Scott Sheads, a longtime ranger at Fort McHenry and a foremost expert on the Battle of Baltimore, maintained this detailed, scholarly blog devoted to the military history of the War of 1812 in Maryland during the bicentennial period. Through original research and transcriptions of primary sources, Sheads brought to light many individuals, engagements, and correspondence through this digital platform. Some of the information published on this blog has been reproduced (with permission) on Battle of Baltimore.

    The 2.5 billion pixel model of Baltimore circa 1815 demonstrates the bicentennial push for exploring more than military history
    The 2.5 billion pixel model of Baltimore circa 1815 demonstrates the bicentennial push for exploring more than military history
  • BEARINGS map of Baltimore circa 1815: The Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County created an interactive, three-dimensional map of the city around 1815 for an exhibit at the Maryland Historical Society. The map shows a south-facing view of Baltimore, including ships in the harbor, hundreds of structures along city streets, outlying forested areas, and the meandering path of the Jones Falls. An enormous amount of historical research and computer programming went into creating this map, which could serve as a valuable tool for students and adults alike.
  • War of 1812 Classroom Resources: Maryland Public Television produced this Thinkport project in collaboration with the Friends of Fort McHenry and the National Park Service. K-12 educators can filter over 100 classroom resources by grade level, format, and keyword. They will also find a list of interactives, including quizzes, and suggested field trip itineraries. Although the site covers all of the War of 1812, the focus remains in Maryland.
  • War of 1812 in the Collections of the Lilly Library: The Indiana University at Bloomington Libraries have opened their War of 1812-related collections to a national audience through this digital exhibit using the Omeka platform. Organized chronologically and then thematically, each topic features a short essay followed by related primary sources. The site integrates social media using the hashtag #War1812.
  • National Park Service War of 1812 portal: This national project offers users various entry points into the War of 1812. Users can explore the history thematically by choosing Stories, People, Places or Resources, and then Voices, Moments, Perspectives and Narratives. The content does not center exclusively on military history or policy, but offer insights into civilian life and the home front for American, British and indigenous people.
  • Key Cam: KeyCam, another state initiative from the bicentennial, provides live video streams from four cameras in Baltimore’s harbor. Two of the cameras are positioned where Key spent the night of September 12, 1814, offering 21st century viewers an opportunity to see Fort McHenry and the city from his perspective. This initiative ties directly into the enduring fascination with Francis Scott Key and the Star-Spangled Banner story. While Key is not depicted as a hero—“slavery and slaveholding” is one of the five chapters in the biography section—this project might have been as well-received during the centennial as the bicentennial.
Star-Spangled Spectacular 2014
The capstone of bicentennial commemorations in 2014: a fireworks display accompanied by patriotic music at Fort McHenry

Sign up for Explore Baltimore Heritage 101—a free four-week class from the Local Preservation School

Over the past few months, we have been working on a new class for people interested in historic preservation who want to learn how to tell the stories behind local buildings and neighborhoods. We’re calling the class Explore Baltimore Heritage 101 and we are excited to announce the four-week schedule for June and July:

  • Research: Tuesday, June 21, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
  • Writing: Tuesday, June 28, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
  • Visuals: Tuesday, July 5, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
  • Outreach: Tuesday, July 12, 7:00pm – 9:00pm

The first three sessions will meet at the Baltimore Free School classroom at 30 W. North Avenue. The final session on outreach will be held in the basement gallery at AIA Baltimore at 11 1/2 W. Chase Street. The class is free of charge and we will provide light refreshments at each session.

Read's Drug Store at the western end of the North Avenue Market, 1929. Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Industry, BGE.12818.
Read’s Drug Store at the western end of the North Avenue Market, 1929. Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Industry, BGE.12818.

Each session is two hours long—enough time for a quick presentation about the topic of the week, discussion and questions, and hands-on projects and activities where participants will practice writing compelling stories, building interactive timelines, and making tour maps. Between each class, we plan to share readings, videos and activities online so you can expect to spend another hour each week to prepare for the next week’s session. The class is led by me—Eli Pousson—and builds on our experience over the past three years of working with contributors for our Explore Baltimore Heritage website and app.

If you want to join the class, please sign up online ASAP; space is limited. We are asking everyone who is interested to plan to attend all four sessions. We know this is a big commitment but we promise to make it worth your time. We have limited space so please register soon.

Eli Pousson and Louis Hughes, Mount Vernon Pride Walking Tour. Photograph by Nicole Stanovsky, 2015 May 31.
Eli Pousson and Louis Hughes, Mount Vernon Pride Walking Tour. Photograph by Nicole Stanovsky, 2015 May 31.

You do not need any previous education or experience with research or historical writing to join the class. If you are interested in Baltimore’s historic buildings and neighborhoods, that is a fine place to start. We do expect you to be comfortable using a web browser (we’ll be using Google Docs, Trello and other free online tools). You should also be comfortable sharing your writing in public.

We have designed this class to teach you how effective communication about historic places can help you to promote preservation and revitalization projects. By participating in this class, you’ll also be helping us learn how to teach these skills to other people across the country. Explore Baltimore Heritage 101 is a pilot for our Local Preservation School project—a new experiment in online education funded by the National Park Service. We also welcome your questions and suggestions—please share your comments below or get in touch.

Explore Baltimore Heritage 101 teaches you how to discover and share stories of historic places

In January 2016, Baltimore Heritage is offering a free course—Explore Baltimore Heritage 101—designed to teach local residents how to research, write and share the stories of historic places in their communities. The course is going to cover four main themes:

  1. Research: How to use digital sources to learn about local history and architecture
  2. Writing: How to write about historic places for local audiences
  3. Visuals: How to combine writing with maps, photos, and graphics
  4. Outreach: How to reach local audiences with online engagement and public programs

Our goal is not to make you an “expert” on Baltimore history. Instead, we want to help you become a better researcher, writer, historian and teacher. Explore Baltimore Heritage 101 is an opportunity to connect with friends and neighbors who share an interest in the stories of Baltimore’s historic buildings and neighborhoods.

Please sign up to hear more about Explore Baltimore Heritage 101—we expect to publish the course schedule and open registration soon!

Over the course of five class sessions, we plan to guide a group of students through the process of sharing a story about a historic place including the opportunity to publish a story on our Explore Baltimore Heritage website and app.

Dr. James Deetz (1977)

We know you and your community have stories to share. Important stories are found everywhere around us—in parks, public art, rowhouses and schools. And good stories about places are really about people. Historian Eric Sandweiss explained it neatly:

“[the history of a city street] means little if it’s not tied to the story of the farmer who sold the land, the developer who bought it from him, the families who campaigned to have it paved, the men who laid the asphalt, or the children who rode their bikes on it.”

By empowering you to connect stories from the past with places found in your neighborhood today, we know we are helping you to build a stronger future for Baltimore. Supporting local residents like you is our central goal for the Local Preservation School—our new experiment in online education funded by the National Park Service. This winter class is our first step in creating free open online educational resources that people across the United States can use to get more involved with saving historic places in their own communities.

Even if you can’t join is for our class this winter, we invite you to subscribe to the Local Preservation School newsletter, follow @localpast on Twitter, share links or comments with the #localpast hashtag, or get in touch with your questions or suggestions.

"The past is not the property of historians; it is a public possession. It belongs to anyone who is aware of it, and it grows by being shared."

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has already completed our course planning survey. The survey is still open for responses so please share your comments and help us put together a great class this winter!

Protecting Heritage in Worldwide Conflict Zones: A Discussion on October 21

Over the last several years, we have all watched aghast at the images of ancient statuary, irreplaceable temples, and priceless historic artifacts are that damaged and destroyed by violence and theft in conflict zones around the world. Just today, we read about the terrible news that the Islamic State has blown up the Triumph Arch in the Syrian city of Palmyra, an iconic 2,000 year-old landmark within a UNESCO world heritage site.

Hadrian's Gate, Palmyra, Syria, 2005. Wikimedia Commons
Hadrian’s Gate, Palmyra, Syria, 2005. Wikimedia Commons

I know I’m not alone in feeling almost helpless to stop this heart-breaking destruction in places half-way around the world. I also know I’m not alone in wondering what people around the world are doing to prevent these losses. While the challenge is immense, the good news is that there are indeed people and groups working hard to protect our global heritage in war zones. We are pleased to bring a leader in this field to speak to our community in Baltimore: Corine Wegener from the Smithsonian Institution.

Corine WegenerMs. Wegener is a founder of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting cultural property worldwide during armed conflict, and helped lead efforts to recover artifacts for the National Museum of Iraq after looting there. She works throughout the world helping museums protect against looting, strengthening international laws to safeguard antiquities, and engaging front-line soldiers on the importance of shared culture.

We hope you can join us for a talk by Ms. Wegener on October 21 with a wine and cheese reception following. Our host is the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, a historic treasure of its own. Built in 1818 and designed by noted architect Maximilian Godefroy (who also designed Baltimore’s Battle Monument on Calvert Street), the church is the oldest Unitarian building still being used in the country. Please get in touch with any questions and come out to learn more about this important international preservation issue.

Digitized directories speed search for forgotten landmarks of 1814-era Baltimore

For our new Battle of Baltimore project, Auni Gelles is digging into the digital archives to trace the history of early 1800s Baltimore. You can start with Auni’s first post on the history of Defender’s Day, her interview with the director of the Flag House or read on for the latest in our behind-the-scenes look at historical research and commemoration in the 21st century.

A few weeks into my work with the Battle of Baltimore project, I’ve selected around fifteen sites that I plan to research and write short stories about. I started with a list of over 200 sites compiled from early 19th century accounts of Baltimore such as Poppleton’s Plan of the City of Baltimore and Kearney’s Map of Baltimore’s Defenses. While some of these places are still familiar to 21st century Baltimoreans (Lexington Market, the Battle Monument), others are mostly forgotten (Harrison’s Marsh, Sugar House, Tobacco Inspection Warehouse).

Poppleton Plan, 1822. Library of Congress, g3844b ct001133>/a>.
Poppleton Plan, 1822. Library of Congress, g3844b ct001133

To gauge which sites would be most fruitful for this project, I tried to get a general sense of the story behind each site before diving too deep into research. For example, I wanted to include a school to discuss the state of education in the early 19th century. The master list included seven such institutions: Male Public School No. 1, Public School No. 3, McKim’s Free School, the Baltimore Free School, the Female Free School, the Methodist Free School, and the Oliver Hibernian Free School. I spent a few minutes on Google to determine which might have the most compelling 1814 story to tell.

Illustration of McKim's Free School from J.H.B. Latrobe's Picture of Baltimore. JScholarship.
Illustration of McKim’s Free School from J.H.B. Latrobe’s Picture of Baltimore. JScholarship.

While the Oliver Hibernian Free School sounded fascinating, I found out it wasn’t established until 1824—and thus, may not be the best fit for this project. This preliminary search is not always straightforward, as there are variations on many place names. In the education example, there is a contemporary organization called the “Baltimore Free School,” which further complicates matters.

Once I focused in on a site, I turned to the wealth of primary resources now available online to understand how a building or institution was described around the Battle of Baltimore. I’ve found that it’s easiest to scour these sources for information about multiple sites rather than to focus only on one site at a time. City registers, including the 1814-1815 and 1816 City Registers, were invaluable in this step. The main function of the register was to provide a directory of Baltimore’s residents and businesses. A simple list of names, professions, and addresses offers many insights into early 19th century Baltimore.

For example, when researching Mary Pickersgill’s Jonestown house (now known as the Flag House), city registers provided information about the flagmaker’s neighbors and therefore, clues about her social and economic status. The 1814 directory showed that her Albemarle Street neighbors included the first clerk of the Bank of Maryland, a sea captain, a lumber merchant, an attorney, a merchant, and a physician—as well as craftsmen such as a cooper, a sailmaker, a weaver, a carver, and a distiller.

An advertisement in the 1814 directory offers services no longer rendered by dentists: cupping and bleeding with leeches.
An advertisement in the 1814 directory offers services no longer rendered by dentists: cupping and bleeding with leeches. Courtesy Maryland State Archives.

Registers also include information about street names, elected officials, and, of course, advertisements. I’ve particularly enjoyed reading some of the positions appointed by the Mayor and City Council. These appointments include the inspector of butter, lard, and flaxseed; inspectors and gaugers of liquors, molasses, and oil; weigher of hay for the Lexington Hay Scale; keepers of the city springs; superintendent of the powder magazine—clearly an important task in September of 1814! I’ve also rediscovered the joy of reading historic advertisements. An ad for J.C. Petherbridge, “Dentist and Bleeder,” reminds me just how far medicine has come in the past two centuries: Mr. Petherbridge offered his services in Old Town “where cupping or bleeding with leeches is required.” While Mr. Petherbridge likely won’t be making an appearance in the Battle of Baltimore site, his advertisement from Iowa Dental Group has helped me get a better sense of everyday life in Baltimore at this time.

As the project progresses I hope to round out the online research with archival research at the Maryland Department at the Enoch Pratt Free Library as well as the Baltimore City Archives and other local institutions.

Join Auni in the search by checking out our collection of Digital Sources for Local History Research that includes a link to a list of digitized Baltimore City directories from 1816 to 1923.